Arvind Kejriwal’s party politics is going to be a mix of idealism, populism, socialism and perhaps a few impractical, if well-intentioned, ideas.
Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption unveiled their new party manifesto in Delhi today, highlighting eight main goals and demands for the new party.
The eight demands are as follows –
1) A more direct democracy – The new party will strive to make India’s democracy more democratic. It believes that law making in India is not truly democratic. “Today, the laws and policies that are (ostensibly) being formulated in the Parliament is actually being created in the residence of the ruling party’s president. Indian democracy is today a slave of the ruling party chief.”
The new party will ensure that the local citizens have a say in how each and every government project in that area is carried out, and how public money is spent in that area, says Kejriwal’s manifesto. “People will have a more direct role in the framing of important laws in the country,” it says.
“Can people directly be the government? It is possible. It has been done in many countries,” it goes on.
2) Removal of Corruption – a Lokpal bill will be passed which will make sure that corruption cases reach the sentencing stage in six months, and not years. “Today, any ordinary person who approaches a government office for any requirement is forced to pay a bribe .. The new law will lay down strict time tables for the fulfillment of every requirement from government agencies. Those officers who still delay will be penalized and his salary will be cut.”
3) Stopping Price Rise – Today most of the price rise is due to the rising cost of fuel. On the one hand, the government has imposed a tax of Rs 2 lakh crore per year on petroleum products and on the other, it has given tax concessions worth Rs 13 lakh crore to corporations. “If this tax is levied (from the corporations), then it will be possible to sell petrol at Rs 50 per litre and diesel at Rs 40 per litre,” the manifesto released by India Against Corruption says.
On the issue of price rise, Kejriwal’s party also notes that a private company is extracting oil in Rajasthan at the cost of $3 per barrel and selling it to government-owned companies at $100 per barrel. “The oil wells belong to us, to the people of this country. Why can’t the government take them over and extract the oil directly?.. If it can do this, the price of oil and gas can go down even further,” the manifesto says.
The manifesto also tries to connect the rising price of electricity in cities like Delhi to the privatization of the power distribution infrastructure. “The price of electricity has increased 100% in Delhi since privatization.. The private companies are earning big profits and the ordinary man is being made to pay heavily for it… Prices will be forcibly reduced,” it promises.
Finally, with gas, power, water etc. coming at cheaper rates, the party believes, the prices of manufactured items will also come down and overall price rise will be controlled.
4) Annulling the Land Acquisition Act – The government today forcibly acquires land under a 1894 law created by the British, for any price it deems legitimate. This land is then handed over to private companies, often after taking bribes from these companies. We will annul the law and make sure that people’s land can be acquired only with their consent.
5) Education and Health – Today the condition of the government-run schools and hospitals is pathetic. “There are neither teachers not teaching in these schools. Ordinary people are not able to send their children to private schools because of the heavy fees … We will make sure that the teaching level of government schools is raised to that of private schools, so that they offer a cheaper alternative to the people.”
“The government has started levying charges at its hospitals. We will reverse this and ensure that the quality of care at these hospitals is improved and that healthcare is provided free of cost.”
Government run schools and hospitals will be put under the control of local citizens’ bodies to ensure that they run smoothly and efficiently.
6) Right to Reject – “There will be a ‘none of the above’ button in the voting machine. If more people vote for ‘none of the above’, the election will have to be held again with all new candidates.
7) Right to Recall – “People will be able to approach the election commission and seek repolling any time during the five-year tenure of their current representative if they feel that he is not performing up to their expectations.”
8) Farmers – Farmers will be given adequate compensation. “Today, according to the Haryana government, the cost of farming is Rs 1,566 per 100 kg of grain. However, the same government is paying only Rs 1280 per quintal when it is procuring grains from the farmers,” it notes. “We would implement the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation that farmers should be able to get a profit margin of 50% of their expenses, so that they can live the life of an ordinary middle class Indian,” Kejriwal’s manifesto says.